Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang Hardcover – May 19, 2009
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
“A rare first-person account of crisis politics at the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party.”
—Erik Eckholm, The New York Times
“Until the appearance of this posthumous work, not a single voice of dissent had ever emerged from the [Chinese Communist] party’s inner circle . . . Fascinating.”
“Zhao speaks from beyond the grave . . . the up-close-and-personal tone [of the book] stands out. Scholars will mine Prisoner of the State for historical nuances.”
—Perry Link, coeditor of The Tiananmen Papers
“[T]his book will be of special importance to anyone interested in what happened during the spring of 1989, culminating in the Tiananmen killings of June 3 and 4.”
—Jonathan Mirsky, The New York Review of Books --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
ZHAO ZIYANG was the Premier of China from 1983 until 1987 when he became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, a position he held until 1989 when he was deposed and put under house arrest until his death in 2005.
Adi Ignatius is an American journalist who covered China for The Wall Street Journal during the Zhao Ziyang era. He is currently editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review.
Bao Pu, a political commentator and veteran human rights activist, is a publisher and editor of New Century Press in Hong Kong.
Top customer reviews
And some of this - but not very much - is in the Tiananmen Papers. For the most part, however, Zhao is laying in his own record of events that he personally participated in, leading with the Tiananmen incident of June 1989, but going back to the beginnings of reform and opening, for which Zhao's leadership in Sichuan province (and Wan Li's in Anhui) were seminal in the testing of agricultural reforms that were the foundation of China's present relative prosperity, and forward to an evaluation of China after Zhao's political demise and Zhao's evaluation of the leaders he worked with during nearly a decade at the center of the storm in Beijing.
Throughout, Zhao relies on what must have been a prodigious memory - assisted, almost certainly, by former assistant Bao Tong and other friends and colleagues. It's interesting, though, that Zhao gets some dates wrong (as pointed out by editorial notes by Bao Pu, son of Bao Tong), which suggests that, unlike most other memoirists, he had no documentation to work from and had to rely solely on his own notes and recall. From Zhao we get marvelous glimpses of how petty and preening life at the top was - and almost certainly remains, in a land where Politburo members are treated, except by themselves, as living gods. Moreover, following reports of a meeting between Deng and two other of the "Eight Immortal" senior party elders, Zhao gives a nod to their characterization of Deng's role as an authoritative "mother-in-law" to the Politburo Standing Committee, observing that this was an apt way of describing how the system worked. We also get detailed confirmation of how great a pack of old fools, opportunists, and ideologues were men like Li Xiannian, Bo Yibo, Li Peng, Yao Yilin, Hu Qiaomu, and Deng Liqun. Peng Zhen, the "grinning tiger," on the other hand, comes off rather well (as he does in the Tiananmen Papers, lobbying for the moderate reformer Wan Li to replace Zhao as party chief), as does Hu Qili, who was tossed overboard along with Zhao in May 1989.
Readers will want to know what Zhao, reflecting in his long political exile, ultimately thought of Deng Xiaoping, father of China's modern economy. Zhao provides a balanced appraisal of Deng, filled with gratitude at the opportunities Deng extended to him and at the same time pointing out problems of Deng's making, underscoring the fact that Deng was an economic liberal who wanted to unleash market forces in China but was NEVER a political reformer; instead, Deng was the driving force behind a host of "anti-liberal" campaigns that Chinese and Western analysts like had attributed primarily to Chen Yun, Hu Qiaomu, and Deng Liqun and that created problems and contradictions within the reform movement. Zhao also provides a balanced, sympathetic account of his predecessor as party general secretary, Hu Yaobang, whose great-hearted impetuousness sped him to an early political demise, primarily, in Zhao's estimation, because Hu failed to take Deng's political conservatism and absolutely deference to the Communist Party's political primacy more seriously and immediately.
Specialists will find this book thoroughly engrossing and the voice absolutely authentic. I'm astonished, however, that Simon and Schuster didn't see fit to help specialists and generalists out by including an index. The book does have a very useful 15 pp dramatis personae for which many, like readers of Russian novels, will be grateful. As Zhao's apology, this is a good one, and Zhao gives himself a good deal of credit for China's early advances in economic reform. He should: he was literally at the center of the storm during the seminal years of transformation and held the field against determined political foes. Many of his ideas, bloodied and battered, have been realized or remain in play, continuing to shape the debate particularly about political reform. One hopes that some day Chinese citizens will be able to freely acknowledge their debt to this their great countryman and mention him in the same breath as Deng Xiaoping, whose close colleague, idea man, sounding board, and implementing agent he was for the foundational decade.
During the Tiananmen Square protests Zhao felt that the situation was not initially as serious as it later became and advocated defusing tensions by holding a series of meetings with and speeches to the students. Hardliners disagreed and what happened next reads like something out of Shakespeare as elders circled with daggers in their sleeves.
Zhao was cast from power and spent the remainder of his life under house arrest. He was unable to speak with journalists, foreigners or former colleagues. Through it all he kept a secret journal which was smuggled out of China after his death. In it he recounts the transformation and rapid growth of the Chinese economy, Tiananmen Square and his political downfall, and his prescription for the future China. This is a rare glimpse behind China's silk curtain of power.
I read Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang immediately after reading Beijing Coma: A Novel and would recommend that other interested readers do the same.
Most recent customer reviews
Interesting to see how things operate behind the scenes
Excellent read! I would recommend it to anyone interested in Chinese history.